For years most insurance carriers have tried to limit their exposure in California because of our reputation for multiple earthquake faults which represents a significant risk factor for carriers. Then came the significant fires. And then came the great exodus during the second half of 2023 when most major carriers left this state! Carriers claim that they have lost significant amounts of money in California given the convergence of natural disasters and a high cost of both labor and materials.

At this point obtaining new policies for buyers has become a significant hurdle in the purchase process. Insurance brokers are reporting that at least 15 business days are required to obtain a policy commitment. This has forced buyers to include a contingency to obtain insurance, changing the former (risky) practice of non-contingent offers which had been the norm in this part of the East Bay for decades.

For some background about the beginning of the major shift , this original article from Bankrate gives a good overview of the shift that began in fall of 2022; if you haven’t already read it, you may find it helpful. For those wishing to take a deep dive into the t

—It’s not just about high fire areas: it’s important to note that folks in all areas are impacted. I have clients in the flats of Berkeley as well as El Cerrito who have had their policies cancelled, and are seeking alternatives.
—While fire risk has exacerbated the problem, California and the Bay Area in particular have been problematic for insurance companies for many years because of earthquake risk. Then as the article points out, the exceptionally high construction costs here in the Bay Area, at their worst since the pandemic and inflation increases, make us a very unattractive risk area.
—Each carrier has been particularly “allergic” to a type of risk for some time. I remember 7-8 years ago encountering the fact that Farmers Insurance hated any and all water claims, including those involving irrigation issues. State Farm and AAA were much less sensitive to water, but were firm that there should be ZERO knob-and-tube wiring for new policies. And K&T is now a very difficult condition for any home seeking a new policy. A month ago there were a couple of non-standard carriers most of us had never heard of, such as Alive, Bamboo, Goosehead and Foremost that would still cover K & T. A month ago Bamboo and Goosehead were out. As I write this I’ve been informed by my favorite broker that there are no carriers currently writing new policies for homes with ANY active knob and tube wiring.
—Timing matters. A client recently purchased a duplex on Spruce Street, which closed the third week of the month. Farmer’s had provided a quote for us when we were writing the offer. But each carrier has a limit to the number of new policies they will write in California per month. The quota was now full. So the broker we used was able to find a short-term (yes, expensive) solution for a few weeks, and got him into a long-term policy at the beginning of the month.
—A four point inspection is now being requested by many carriers. The four areas are electrical (no knob and tube), plumbing (no galvanized piping), roof (no shake roofs), and for many foundation (with a requirement for earthquake retrofitting).
—Any water claim against a home may trigger the requirement for a whole-house water leak detection system. These require an active wifi system for operation and monitoring.
Things  that current homeowners need to be prepared for, some of which you might address proactively:
—remove any remaining Knob-and-Tube wiring, and make sure to get documentation from your electrician.
—fire hardening will become increasingly important. Whether we like it or not, having at least a five-foot clearance, and ideally 10 feet or more from our homes is going to be essential.
—Physical inspections by carriers are likely to become more common. One set of clients were able to get their insurance reinstated by Travelers by getting a new home inspection which showed that their home had no maintenance issues, and that all systems were updated at least to an acceptable standard.
—think twice (or three times!) about filing a claim. I know, that’s why we pay for insurance! But right now, any claim can be the prompt for a carrier to cancel you, where you might otherwise have remained off their radar. And know that if you picked up the phone or got online with a representative to discuss your desire to be reimbursed for legitimate damage or repairs, that counts as a “claim,” even if you did not actually file a form. And both you and your property are going to be dinged on the C.L.U.E. Report. C.L.U.E. stands for “comprehensive loss underwriting exchange.” C.L.U.E. reports disclose the detailed claims history for a person or a property. (To request a C.L.U.E. report of your own home or auto history, click here. You are entitled to a free C.L.U.E. report once each year.)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Planting with natives gives extra joy, as pollinators visit. It’s been such a pleasure to see my native plants grow in my median strip. Some of absolutely thrived, while others have taken a while and now, after a year, are well-established. I learned that yarrows can take over, especially the white one! And the small bicolor penstemon is a bit fragile. I urge you to take advantage of the many local sources of true expertise on natives that we have locally, and this weekend is a great time to do that!

Free packets of Larner’s “Native Wildflowers for Pollinators” seeds will be given away this Saturday at two of the nurseries at the times listed below, while supplies last.  Jennifer Dirking (the native plant fan extraordinaire who made the Keystone Species signs) will have a table with seeds, information, and Keystone Signs.

Shop for natives in-person at East Bay Wilds, the Watershed Nursery, Oaktown, or Annie’s Annuals, and a percentage of your purchases will go to support the Tour.

Sat. Nov. 18 Native Plant Extravaganza (includes free talks)  The next Native Plant Extravaganza is coming up; shop for native plants during the Extravaganza next Saturday, and a percentage of your purchases will go to support the Tour.

The fall Native Plant Extravaganza takes place on Saturday, November 18, from 10:00-4:00; shop for natives in-person at East Bay Wilds, the Watershed Nursery, Oaktown, or Annie’s Annuals, and a percentage of your purchases will go to support the Tour.  Or… shop online…Order online from Green Thumb Works on either Saturday or Sunday Nov. 18 & 19, and a percentage of your purchase will also go to support the Tour.

Here are the addresses, and the list of free talks that will be given on Nov. 18:

Berkeley– Oaktown Native Plant Nursery, 702 Channing Way, Berkeley, (510) 387-9744.  Oaktown grows more than 200 different varieties of California native plants, including 15 types of grasses. View Oaktown’s plant list here.

Seed Giveaway: Jennifer Dirking will have a table at Oaktown from 10 am – 12 pm, with some native gardening information and free packets of Larner Seeds “Native Plant Pollinator Wildflower Mix,” while supplies last. Seed source:

Talks in the Nursery at Oaktown Native Plant Nursery
12:00 “Plant combinations for Bay Area gardens: Creating a mix of native plants that will thrive together” by Suzanne Carter. Oaktown’s owner, Suzanne, will lead you through a simple design process to come up with pleasing plant combinations for the home garden. The emphasis will be on plant size, proper spacing and color.

 Oakland – East Bay Wilds is located at 2777 Foothill Blvd., Oakland; note that the entrance is on 28th Ave. This nursery is normally only open to the public on Fridays, so don’t miss this chance to shop on a weekend!

While at East Bay Wilds, browse Pete’s extensive, eclectic collection of garden benches, tables, chairs, statues, planters, antiques, and tchotchkes available at great prices – a percentage of these purchases will also go to support the Tour. See the plant list here and see photos of gardens that Pete has designed and planted with natives here. (If you are interested in a consult, design, installation or maintenance for a California native landscape, email Pete at or call (510) 409-5858.)

1:00 “How to choose and place native plants in your garden” by Pete Veilleux, owner of East Bay Wilds

Richmond – Annie’s Annuals, 740 Market Ave. Richmond, (510) 215-3301. Did you know that Annie’s grows, sells, and ships more than 275 different varieties of California native plants? After entering the nursery turn left to find the natives section. Not sure what to plant where? Their helpful staff is happy to answer your questions and offer suggestions. See Annie’s native plant list here.

11:00 “Creating your own native wildlife sanctuary” – how native plants benefit our gardens and beyond, and how to support helpful insects, pollinators, birds and more to maintain a healthy ecosystem” by Charlotte Canner from Our Water Our World

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Finally the Spring Market Blooms!

May 22, 2023

April showers bring May flowers…or so the old adage tells us. But rarely do we have showers as late as April, let alone actual rains in May. And all that rain did delay our spring housing market. Now, finally in May, we are seeing the increase in inventory we would normally have experienced at least […]

Read the full article →

Earth Day Events Nearby 2023

April 19, 2023

Celebrating Earth Day 2023 Here are just a few of the special events you can enjoy as we celebrate the 53rd International Earth Day in the East Bay: Saturday April 22: Berkeley Bay Festival, 11 am – 4 pm Celebrate Earth Day at the Berkeley Marina. Enjoy live music, food, and activities for all ages. […]

Read the full article →

Go Solar NOW! Major changes to Solar in 2023

January 19, 2023

Despite hearing resounding objections from the public, scientists and even many politicians, in December of 2022 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)  approved changes to modify the amount of money paid by PG&E and other utility providers to solar customers for excess electricity that homes provide to the grid. I partnered with a solar provider […]

Read the full article →

Focusing on Giving Thanks this Holiday in 2022

November 17, 2022

Holidays in 2022 are still going to be in transition, just like so many aspects of our world. We are fortunate that COVID is less deadly now, but the virus is still evolving. Some families may be aching to have a large family gathering again, while I know quite a few people are still being […]

Read the full article →

Support Local Businesses for Gifts and Celebrations!

December 16, 2021

The diversity of the East Bay is quite inspirational – it offers a little something for everyone. We know that many restaurants and small businesses have folded as a result of the pandemic, and others are having a difficult time staying open. To protect the variety of local businesses that make our community unique, let’s […]

Read the full article →

New spa bathroom in North Berkeley home with both vintage and modern mahogany!

August 22, 2021

I remember those first days of school when I was kid, when the teachers would always ask us to prepare a report on how we spent our summer. The timing is perfect for me to report how I spent my summer this year, and it was largely preparing a listing for sale. Normally that would […]

Read the full article →

Starting At Home: Stabilizing And Nourishing Our Environment

April 16, 2021

Did you know buildings produce as much smog as all of the light-duty vehicles in California? That’s about 40% of all of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, Berkeley was the first city in the country to adopt an electrification mandate for new construction and major rehabilitation. More than 30 California cities have followed similar […]

Read the full article →

How has the pandemic changed what homebuyers will be looking for in the coming year?

January 20, 2021

 I answered the question for the SoundOff! section of SF Gate for Sunday, January 17th. Here is a somewhat expanded response: In a word, most buyers simply want MORE than pre-pandemic, and the following trends are expected to continue: More space within the home: With families spending most of their time at home, they want […]

Read the full article →